Connecticut’s inmate population has increased to what it was in 2003, when overcrowding forced the state to ship some prisoners to Virginia and house others in prison gyms, says The Advocate in Stamford. The increase, which comes after three years of decline, is especially sharp among prisoners awaiting trial. Defendants who await trial in jail are at a disadvantage because judges are more likely to hand out a prison sentence to them than to those who can afford to pay bond, said state Rep. Mike Lawlor, a law professor at the University of New Haven and a former prosecutor. The Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association may propose a law requiring judges to hold a hearing if they want to set bond above a certain level. Jon Schoenhorn, association president, said, “The outrageous problem of bail is out of control and arbitrary. A lot of it is about how the judge feels that day.”
The prison population ballooned from about 17,700 in 2001 to 19,200 in 2003. It was under 10,000 in 1990. Officials have asked federal immigration authorities if they can remove illegal immigrants from state prisons, and asked judges if they can release more defendants awaiting trial on nonviolent charges instead of jailing them on bond. The number of pretrial inmates has jumped about 10 percent his year, correction Commissioner Theresa Lantz said. Any increase in the number of pretrial inmates is a concern because those suspects are far more likely to receive a prison sentence at the end of their case, said Jack King of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Washington, D.C.